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wine review

It's an unusual business title, to be sure, but Eric Brass wears it well: Toronto tequila entrepreneur. Mr. Brass, 29, is the Canadian partner behind Tromba, a new Mexican spirit lighting up cash registers in some of Toronto's hippest bars, such as the County General, Drake Hotel, Spoke Club and Harbord Room. Recently launched in LCBO stores across the province, the product is named after the "big rain" that floods the Mexican highlands each spring, nourishing the blue agave plant from which tequila is distilled.

With Australian classmate Nick Reid, Mr. Brass got the idea for the brand in 2005 while on an exchange sponsored by the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. The pair had held a dim view of the infamous spirit, which they knew to be responsible for no shortage of spring-break hangovers. But their eyes lit up upon sampling some of the smoother, more sublime brands. And, being business students, there were dollar signs in those eyes, too.

Their enthusiasm rubbed off on Marco Cedano, a former master distiller at Don Julio, the gold-standard tequila brand, who signed on to make it. Craft-distilled in small batches, the indie spirit is now competing against much larger and more established rivals, such as Sauza, El Jimador and Jose Cuervo in the partners' respective home countries of Canada and Australia. "I literally went around town with a bottle of Tromba in my backpack," Mr. Brass said. "The product ended up speaking for itself."

And now a few awards are speaking as well. Among other accolades, Tequila Tromba recently scored an impressive 93 points in the 100-per-cent-agave blanco category at the 2012 Ultimate Spirits Challenge in the United States, finishing one point shy of the Chairman's Trophy. It was the only independent label named as a finalist.

It's unusually smooth and round, with pronounced sweetness and more of a dry, earthy quality and chili-pepper essence than the strongly vegetal kick of many other brands. That can cut both ways. I happen to like that vegetal quality, but I'd wager most people don't. A crowd-pleasing tequila with pedigree, fancy-bar cred and expert endorsement – not bad for a couple of backpack-toting college pals fresh out of school.

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